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RR alfalfa gets USDA's green light

Jeff Caldwell 01/28/2011 @ 11:01am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

The sale and planting of Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa can resume after a USDA ruling Thursday that an environmental impact statement shows RR varieties are just as safe as conventional alfalfa.

"After conducting a thorough and transparent examination of alfalfa through a multi-alternative environmental impact statement (EIS) and several public comment opportunities, APHIS has determined that Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as traditionally bred alfalfa," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Thursday. "All of the alfalfa production stakeholders involved in this issue have stressed their willingness to work together to find solutions. We greatly appreciate and value the work they've done so far and will continue to provide support to the wide variety of sectors that make American agriculture successful."

The final EIS, published by USDA in December, found that "renewed planting could be an increase in quantity of high quality alfalfa hay produced by alfalfa farmers," according to a report from Monsanto, maker of Genuity Roundup Ready alfalfa.

"This is great news for farmers who have been waiting for the green light to plant Roundup Ready alfalfa," says Steve Welker, alfalfa commercial lead at Monsanto. "The overwhelming positive feedback from the farmers who first planted Roundup Ready alfalfa and ongoing grower surveys indicate significant farmer interest in this product."

The USDA decision is good news for farmers utilizing both RR alfalfa and other biotechnology in their cropping systems, says National Corn Growers Association chairman Darrin Ihnen.

"Biotechnology can improve a farm's efficiency and decrease the amount of chemical needed for that crop. We need choice to raise more food, feed, fiber and fuel for the world's growing needs," Ihnen says.

"This is the right decision," adds Jim Zimmerman, vice chairman of NCGA's Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team. "A clean, full deregulation is the best decision for producers and lets farmers plant the kind of alfalfa they choose this spring."

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